Hundreds of thousands take to the streets in UK protesting budget cuts
Mass protests are taking place across the British capital to oppose the government's 80 billion pound spending cuts. Early estimates stated around 250,000, but now there are suggestions it could be up to 500,000 people. The demonstrators are demanding that the government abandon what they call damaging cuts and set out an alternative based on job creation, fair taxation, and growth.
Police say protesters have thrown paint bombs and light bulbs filled with ammonia at officers, shops, and banks on the main shopping streets of Oxford Street and New Bond Street. 14 people have been reportedly injured in the clashes.
The march has been organized by the Trades Union Council which represents more than six million workers. Dubbed “The march for the alternative”, the march is tipped to be the TUC’s biggest event in decades, bringing together trades unionists, community group members, and users of public services.
Over the last six months towns and cities all over the country have seen hundreds and thousands protest against cuts in public spending in areas like education and pensions. But now the UK is spending hundreds of millions on military intervention in Libya. It is estimated that in the first week alone, bombing Libya has already cost $US 245 million.
“It’s been ten years now that we’ve been intervening in wars. We had the war in Afghanistan, then we had Iraq, now suddenly is a third theater of war. At the same time [the British government] says it hasn’t got enough money for the welfare that people in this country need,” says Lindsey German, an activist at the “Stop the War” coalition. “And they say everybody has to make sacrifices. Well may be we should not be spending 800,000 pounds per missile. How many libraries, how many nurseries, how many young people sent to school we could fund?”
The march taking place on Saturday has been planned a few months ago following last year’s big student demonstrations. This time, it is the trade unions who are getting in on the act, and there is a whole new dimension to it.
The Labor Party opposition has said these demonstrations are “a march of mainstream Britain,” and Kate Hudson, activist and the head of “The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament” organization, believes that the government will be shaken by the extent of these protests.
“Of course they’ll say that what they are doing is necessary,” she said. “I think the government will be sweating by the scale of the protest and by the social extent of the protest. They can’t say that this is just one small sector, like just put it down to students, or lefties, or something like that. This is the whole heart of British society protesting.”
And now, when Britain is involved in leading the charge into Libya, John Rees, a political activist at “Stop the War” coalition is stating the government’s continual addiction to war is the main problem with the UK's deficit.
“If we would just scrap the nuclear weapons renewal, if we were to stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the attack on Libya, we would have a very, very large portion of the British government’s deficit dealt with at a single blow,” he said.
Paul Novak, the head of organization and services at the Trades Union Congress says that current campaigns in every major town and city all across the UK illustrate that cuts are not the cure and the government needs to change its policy.
“We’ve called on the government to change its course, it’s becoming more and more obvious that the government course is not working," he says. "The government needs to listen to the sides protesting here and change its economic course, it needs to listen to its people.”